Finding Waldo This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 2, 2012
1987 brought the world a hide-and-seek legend. It brought us the stripes-clad, glasses-wearing Waldo who in every illustration resides among the mess of cartoon scenery. Find Waldo, each page instructs, but how? What if each of us is Waldo, drawn into a pandemonium that we must first make sense of? Some drawings are simpler than others, and Waldo can be found in less time. Others require a break, to come back and reassess Waldo’s location. Still others implore the help of another person. Once Waldo is found, though, the page is turned. We, the Waldos, are lost once again. Likely without knowing it, British illustrator Martin Handford created a metaphor for the ultimate search in life: the search to find oneself.

My quest to find Waldo took me seventeen years- essentially my entire life. I did not realize its importance, though, until after my freshman year and after listening to stories of all the excitement my friends had lived through. In my mediocre life of maintaining perfect grades, competing in a side sport, and keeping family values, I had not considered anything except the planned future. College, a career, and this abstract idea of accomplishment were there, but the words of Frank Zappa terrified me. “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, you teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do [it] then you deserve it.” I did not want to deserve it. I wanted to complete my quest, to find Waldo before time ran out and my perceived mundane future loomed before me. This past summer, I finally figured out that he can indeed be found. Waldo is where the heart is.

Waldo is the two seconds in the air between cliff and water after I jump. He is skiing hand in hand with my friends and the ski bum town I feel so at home in. He is making breakfast with two of my favorite people and the laughter that echoed through the kitchen when one of the pancakes, flipped off the skillet in my attempt to show off, hit the ceiling. Waldo is rock climbing, fountain running, beach walks, teaching myself to play ukulele, and performing for the block-long line at the frozen yogurt joint. Waldo is sleeping under the stars but usually not sleeping at all. He’s music: by the campfire, in the pool, or spilling freely out of every open car window as I ride my bike down the street to pick up my mango juice. Waldo is a week with the camp folk I call my family and falling in love each day I spend there. Waldo is indescribable moments, snapshots in a scrapbook I’m not yet ready to put away.

I found Waldo this summer, not in one place but on every page in the story I lived this season. As with every book, I was saddened to finish it, but more await, and I am ready.

Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

shywriter said...
Nov. 11, 2012 at 3:03 am
I see you're also applying to the University of Chicago :D I would critique your essay, but I have no idea whatsoever about Waldo ^^ What course are you applying to?
iwakeup2early replied...
Nov. 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm
I'm actually not applying there! The prompt did come from the university, but it was an assignment in my English class
Site Feedback